News / Africa

    Ivory Coast’s 'iPad Government' Embraces New Media

    Ivory Coast's internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara (L) uses an iPad prior to attending African Union talks in Addis Ababa, March 10, 2012.
    Ivory Coast's internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara (L) uses an iPad prior to attending African Union talks in Addis Ababa, March 10, 2012.
    Anne Look
    Social networking sites and online innovation are changing the face of government, activism and business in Ivory Coast and throughout Africa. 

    They are called the iPad government.  Ivory Coast's ministers take notes and send e-mails on their touchscreen tablet computers during weekly cabinet meetings.  They share and access documents through an online portal.  The government is going paperless.

    Ministers are encouraged to blog, Facebook and tweet regularly.  Many of them actually do.

    Guillaume Soro, currently the president of the National Assembly, is launching his own android/iPhone application.  Social media has been key to Soro's rebranding from a rebel leader to a serious politician with aspirations on the presidential palace.

    Youth minister Alain Lobognon said it's about reaching citizens by whatever means possible.  And, when nearly four out of five of those citizens are under the age of 35, social networking sites are a natural choice.

    The population, he says, needs to know the truth about incorrect information.  If you are not fast, he says, rumors get going and can do real damage.  Ivory Coast doesn't have a dedicated 24/7 news channel.  The state media broadcasts at 8 p.m. but by then, it can be too late. 

    Instant reaction

    Social media sites, like Twitter, he says, allow the government to react almost instantly to news, rumors or criticism.

    Lobognon says he can send as many as 100 tweets a day -- the short 144-character messages posted to Twitter, a kind of global online chat board.  He tweets on ministry initiatives but also exchanges with constituents and replies personally to private messages.

    It's good leadership, Lobognon says, but it's also good politics.

    He says a Facebook or Twitter account is like instantly filling a room with 5,000 people, if you have for example, 5,000 subscribers.  Then, multiply that by 10, he says, for all your subscribers who will share or re-tweet your message and you have just reached as many as 50,000 people with the click of a button.

    Could social media change the way Africans run for office?  Could the internet revolutionize the way Africans govern, find a job or even go to school?

    Not yet, but that's the idea, say a group of young Ivorian e-entrepreneurs who get together most Thursday nights at a comedy club in Abidjan.

    'Techies'

    These young, self-professed techies are the best and brightest of the country's fledgling IT (information technology) sector.  They are programmers, strategists, designers.  They socialize amid the glow of blue screens as several tap away at their laptops or handheld tablets. 

    Mohamed Diaby is director of an Abidjan marketing strategy firm, Waleya Hub, which organizes the meet-ups.  It also puts together seminars to teach "techies" how to market their ideas and young people how to use the internet.

    It's a business, Diaby says, but it's also about creating "useful technology."

    Technology, he says, can help Ivory Coast, and Africa, catch up when it comes to healthcare, education and other sectors.  It doesn't have all the solutions, he says, but it allows them to go faster, to skip steps along the way.  It's not just a race for money, he says.  It's a race to development.  The next step is getting the coming generation up to speed, he says, and then this will explode.

    Many, like Diaby, moved back home to Ivory Coast after training and working abroad, pillars of the so-called African "brain gain."

    This group of people, he says, has been around for about four years, but it was the crisis that really united them as a community.  The next step is for them to monetize their ideas, to be able to earn a living with their expertise and then ultimately take their creations to the world market.

    'Testing ground'

    The crisis he is referring to is the 2010 - 2011 post-election conflict that killed 3,000 people in Ivory Coast.  The tragedy proved to be a technological testing ground.

    A group of programmers had already set up a site to map what was happening during the election and created the twitter hash tag #CIV2010.  Hash tags are a searchable way for people to label their tweets.  It, and other Ivorian hash tags, became sources of up-to-the minute information on news and violence.

    Blogger and IT consultant, Cryriac Gbogou, says they also created the hash tag #CIVsocial to help people stranded in their homes by the fighting.

    He says people could post when they, or someone they knew, needed food or help getting to a hospital.  He said they would connect that person with help or supply it themselves.  The initiative, he says, saved 82 people and resulted in two successful births done by phone with doctors talking women through the labor and delivery.

    The aims of these IT inventors aren't entirely altruistic.  They do also need to make money.  The challenge now, they say, is how to do that in a country where just a tenth of the population is online and internet scams have made e-commerce near impossible.  The country is blacklisted on sites like PayPal.  DSL connections at around $60 per month are too expensive for most families.

    Innovation must often precede infrastructure, they say.  They hope to create the demand that will drive the investment.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora